Thursday, 30 August 2007

See ya!

Hey guys! As you know, I'll be spending the whole of next week huffing and puffing away in the countryside. You all be good while I'm having a good work out! I'll miss you all.

I won't be blogging while I'm there. Have you seen the French keyboard? The keys are different, I'm really not used to it. Well, I'm on vacation.... so, stay away from the keyboard!


Charles Schulz would be so proud of my little Rusty! I'm talking about peanuts of course. I was eating peanuts out on the porch one day. Some rolled off the table onto the floor. I didn't even notice Rusty sitting quietly under the table with a peanut between his paws, chewing off the shells and eating up the little nuts inside. One after another, he chewed and munched until there was a pile of mangled shells around him.

That's when I discovered he loves peanuts as much as I do. I'm sure he would get along famously with Snoopy too... though he'll probably chew up Woodstock.

Whenever his little ears hear me rip open a pack of nuts, he'll sit right next to me and we'll munch our afternoon away.

CH is always telling me not to feed the dogs with everything I eat. "You may kill him you know!" Yah..yah...As a responsible dog owner, I make it a point to check his list of forbidden food every now and then. Apparently peanuts and banana didn't make it to the list. YAY!

How can I not pamper my little pooch? Isn't he the cutest?

In case you're wondering..... here's the list of FOOD TO AVOID:
Certain types of raw fish have been found to be extremely unsafe for dogs. They contain a microorganism that affects and kills dogs, but not humans or other animals. Salmon in particular is a danger but other types of fish carry the bacteria as well.

While dogs can eat some of the same foods that we do, there are many they should not eat. If your dog has ingested any of these foods, get veterinary help immediately:

Grapes and Raisins: Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure indogs. As little as a single serving of raisins can kill a dog

Onions: Onions destroy red blood cells and can cause anemia.

Chocolate: Chocolate can cause seizures, coma and death. Baker’schocolate is the most dangerous. A dog can consume milk chocolate and appear to be fine because it is not as concentrated, but it is still dangerous.

Coffee, Coffee grounds, tea and tea bags: Drinks/foods containingcaffeine cause many of the same symptoms chocolate causes

Macadamia Nuts: Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, muscle tremor andparalysis.

Animal fat and fried foods: Excessive fat can cause pancreatitis.

Bones: Bones can splinter and damage a dog’s internal organs.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes can cause tremors and heart arrhythmias. Tomato plants are the most toxic, but tomatoes themselves are also unsafe.

Avocados: The fruit, pit and plant are all toxic. They can cause difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation in the chest, abdomen and heart.

Nutmeg: Nutmeg can cause tremors, seizures and death.

Apples, Cherries, Peaches and similar fruit: The seeds of these fruits contain cyanide, which is poisonous to dogs as well as humans. Unlike humans, dogs do not know to stop eating at the core/pit and easily ingest them.

Raw eggs: Raw eggs can cause salmonella poisoning in dogs. Dogs havea shorter digestive tract than humans and are not as likely to suffer from food poisoning, but it is still possible.

Salt: Excessive salt intake can cause kidney problems.

Some“human” foods are good for dogs. Most of these are healthier than the boxed treats you buy in the grocery store. This is just a small list of examples of foods dogs can eat, not a list of everyfood they should eat. Dogs won’t necessarily get all the nutrients they need if they eat these foods exclusively, so check with your veterinarian if you are interested in feeding your dog a home cooked diet. Any food that causes stomach upsets or digestive problems in your dogs should be avoided.

Meats should be boneless and it’s best if the skin is removed. Avoid raw meat because of the small risk of food poisoning and parasites.
Skinless, boneless chicken breast
Skinless, boneless turkey breast
Boneless fish
Beef Liver
Chicken Livers

Dogs have shorter digestive tracts than humans and cannot digest most vegetables whole or in large chunks. It’s best to put them through a food processor before giving them to your dog.
Green Beans
Red and green bell peppers

Grains should not be given in large amounts or make up a large part of a dog’s diet, but these are generally safe in small amounts.

Dairy products
Use dairy products with caution as they are high in fat and can cause pancreatitis, gas and diarrhea. Usually, nonfat plain yogurt is safe in small amounts.

Police at work

I stepped into the office to find my colleague on the phone. When I walked in, she handed the phone to me, "It's the police. They want to speak to you."

I was both excited and puzzled. Why is the police looking for me so early in the morning?

Ah! As it turns out, the police wanted to seek my advice on shipping containers. They are trying to trace the owners of 2 containers and had wanted to know how to identify the owners from the prefix. Since our company sells shipping containers, I was able to render assistance right away.

In the process of giving him the details, I tried to do some investigation of my own. "Do you know the colours of the containers?"

"Don't know yet. We haven't visited the crime scene."

Wah, crime scene!! Does that sound exciting or what? CSI:NY had an episode where they found a flattened corpse between 2 containers. I wonder what's happening here...

I'm so curious to ask but being the good citizen, I gave them the details and hung up. Let the real police do their work. I should mind my own business.

Rusty rox my sox!

YK made a video of Rusty who's so alert even when he's being pampered.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Going bananas

In my new breakfast 'regime' (diet), I've ditched ...

My favourite Skippy Chunky peanut butter.

The aromatic Miel (honey) from the Lavender fields of Provence.

The humble banana!

Let me tell you why you should never look at bananas the same way again.

Bananas contain three natural sugars - sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber. A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. No wonder the banana is the number one fruit with the world's leading athletes.

It's a natural remedy for many ailments too!

Depression: People suffering from depression feel much better after eating a banana. It contains tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

PMS: The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.

Anemia: High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood.

Blood Pressure: It's extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it perfect to beat blood pressure.

Brain Power: Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.

Constipation: High in fiber. Including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.

Hangovers: One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.

Heartburn: Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body, so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.

Morning Sickness: Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.

Mosquito bites: Rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin can reduce swelling and irritation.

Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.

Ulcers: The banana is used as the dietary food against intestinal disorders because of its soft texture and smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronicler cases. It also neutralizes over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.

Temperature control: Many other cultures see bananas as a "cooling" fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood enhancer tryptophan.

Smoking &Tobacco Use: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking. The B6, B12, potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body's water balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be rebalanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack.

Strokes: According to research in The New England Journal of Medicine, eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%!

Warts: Those keen on natural alternatives swear that if you want to kill off a wart, take a piece of banana skin and place it on the wart, with the yellow side out. Carefully hold the skin in place with a plaster or surgical tape!

When you compare it to an apple, it has four times the protein, twice the carbohydrate, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in potassium and is one of the best value foods around.

It's so cheap too! What are you waiting for? Go grab a banana today!


Ting, the ambassador of bananas!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007


When CH told me he’s going for Health Screening at Raffles Hospital today, I went “Wah, it costs $700!?”

“It’s expensive but very thorough. Worth every cent. It includes Treadmill Cardiac Assessment you know”, he said.

I scanned through the list. “Wah, they’re going to draw your blood, check for VD, tumour markers, etc.” Suddenly my interest was piqued when I saw Stool Occult Blood. “Hey, that means they need stool samples! How are you going to bring the samples to the hospital? In a Ziplock bag?”

I decided to accompany him to the hospital for the screening at 8am. “Did you bring your sample?”

“Nope, they didn’t ask me to bring any.”

“How are they going to check then?” I’m not obsessed about the stool but I’m curious. I may need to go through the same health screening sometime too.

Raffles Hospital is nothing like the public hospital I bring mum to. Raffles is in a class of its own. The nurses are polite and efficient. There are nice seating and lots of new magazines in the beautiful lobby, even workstations where I can read emails or blog if I wanted to. It's like a 5-star hotel! But CH hardly spent any time waiting around. The doctor was ready to interview him right away. He was then sent to this room and that room for the different tests. After completing the treadmill and ECG, he was asked to pay and leave.

“What about the stool sample?” I asked. “We’re not done until they’ve checked your stool you know!”

As it turned out, before he left, a nurse handed him a zip lock bag with 2 wooden sticks and a card. He’s supposed to smear some sample onto the card and bring it back to the hospital the next day.

While he left the hospital with the sticks and card, I left with a grin on my face. “Jeez, they should have said so right from the start. Then I wouldn’t have to fret about your crap. Anyway, have fun with those sticks.”

Counting down

Three more days and I'll be on the plane to Paris. Somehow I don't feel an ounce of excitement this time round. Surely I have not forgotten the thrill of cycling through the vineyards, past the beautiful villages and century-old chateauxs barely three months ago?

Maybe it's the timing. I'm worried about mum's treatment. Plus the kids will be at home during their one-week break. I think it's the guilt.... but I'll be letting my best friend down even more if I don't go. Anyway, here's a glimpse of what's in store.

We'll arrive in Paris early Saturday morning. After unloading our bags at the hotel, we'll explore Paris on foot. It's my friend's first time, so we've got to see the sights, check out the flea markets and stroll along Champs Elysee. Maybe we'll catch the sun setting over Paris city from Sacre-coeur.

We're taking a coach to Bruges in Belgium (below) on Sunday morning. Bruges incredibly well-preserved medieval architecture makes it one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Essentially, it's a living museum. Every glance down a narrow crooked street reveals a wonderful view of ancient architecture, every twist and turn allows the eye to fall on another meandering canal, beautiful bridge, or interesting lane that is bound to lead on to a labyrinth of middle aged buildings, ancient fortifications, cobbled alleyways and quiet tree lined squares.

Monday morning will see us on the train to Loire Valley where we’ll find our way to Le Vieux Moulin, best described as a well-appointed country inn set in a very secluded, romantic setting. The mill house and guesthouse are nestled aside the River L'Aubois and the banks of the tiny Canal Berry.

The next few days will see us cycling through the beautiful Loire region.
We'll ride to the village of Chavignol synonymous with "frommage de chevre'" the best known goat cheese in France. This small charming village is the epitome of a French village. It also produces some of the finest Sancerre wine of this region.

Next, we will bicycle near the Loire River to the Chateaux de Tracy and vineyards where a fine Pouilly Fume' wine is produced, stopping by in the enchanting village of Donzy for lunch. Populated by many half-timbered buildings, Donzy is the home of an ancient walnut oil mill which we will also visit.

We will travel North to the village of Sancerre-a Protestant, stronghold in the 16th Century and the site of many religious wars. It is now famous for its fine white wine and we'll explore the local vineyards and some of the small winemaking communes of the Sancerrois and view the charming churches and chateaux.

Amongst some highlights are the port village on the Canal Lateral La Loire, village of Le Guetin, and the historic sites in the city of Nevers (below). We'll visit Apremont-Sur-Allier medieval flower village, featuring one of the most beautiful Floral Park's of France and an imposing castle overlooking the village and the River Allier.
You'll also find us cycling through the villages of Germigny L'Exempt and Vereaux to the village of Sancoins famous for its Wednesday marketplace, one of the largest in France and ride through the canopied forest of Apremont, where we may choose to stop for a swim in Lake Robinson.
We'll also visit Bourges, the old capital of Aquitaine and the seat of King Charles VII which is steeped in history. Here we'll find the imposing Cathedral de Saint Etienne with its renowed stained glass windows, and the Palais Jacques Coeur built in 1450A.D. Both are famous throughout Europe as examples of Gothic architecture.

If we're still feeling energetic on Friday, we can ride through several charming burgundy villages and begin our ascent to the peak for a panoramic view of the village of Vezelay (above), famous for its cathedral and the burial place of Saint Mary Magdeline of biblical history.
After almost a week of biking, we'll end up in Paris on Saturday for our flight home. I think I need some rest first. I feel tired just thinking of all the riding ahead of us.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Oh, so nice!

It's so nice to receive the "Nice Award" from the nice girl herself - Michelle!

The author of this award is Bella-Enchanted. In her blog she explains what the award is about:
"This award will be awarded to those that are just nice people, good blog friends and those that inspire good feelings and inspiration! Those that care about others that are there to lend support or those that are just a positive influence in our blogging world!"

I try to be nice most of the time. It has always worked well for me but nice girls like us do get trampled upon by bad people occasionally. Mooiness wrote an interesting piece about "Nice guys and the girls who walk over them" today.

To some extent, he's right but it all depends on what kind of girls they date. I've had my share of bad boys and boy, are they bad news or what! Thanks to them, I can really appreciate Mr Nice now. I think nice people are a gem to have and keep forever.

I've met lots of nice people in the blogging world. Now is my turn to award 7 nice bloggers:

1. My dear Mother Hen who's been so nice to me all these years
2. The gorgeous Holly with the kindest heart
3. The beautiful Random Magus who's always nice
4. The nice and wonderful JYankee who makes me smile
5. Mr Nice Guy himself - Mooiness who writes so nicely too
6. The Foul Bastard who tries to be not so nice, but I know he's nice
7. Mike who always leaves a nice comment for me

I have another special award for Seagrape for being such a nice mummy to her beautiful kids.

Sandwich Generation

I spent the entire morning at the hospital. Mum had an appointment with the neurosurgeon, followed by the specialist doctor from the radiotherapy department. It has been decided that she will go for the radiotherapy treatment to stunt the growth of the tumour in her head.

We spent too many hours waiting to see the doctors. In the end, I had to rush off to pick up SK from school and send him for math tuition leaving my brother, who took the day off from work, to finish up the scheduling of treatment dates and other paperwork.

Just as I was leaving the hospital, my best friend was about to visit the same hospital with her dad who is seeking treatment for the pain in his legs. She had also taken the day off to accompany her dad to the hospital.

We belong to the group called The Sandwich Generation. I just found out there are 3 types of sandwiches:

Traditional: those sandwiched between aging parents who need care and/or help and their own children.

Club Sandwich: those in their 50s or 60s, sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren. OR Those in their 30s and 40s, with young children, aging parents and grandparents.(Term coined by Carol Abaya)

Open Faced: anyone else involved in elder care. (Term coined by Carol Abaya)

So.... that'll make me a Traditional Sandwich! Good thing I'm not a club sandwich, it's too much for me right now. I'm on a diet.

Oh, almost forgot... I think Rusty is having conjunctivitis again. His left eye looks puffy and watery. I still have the eye wash and ointment from his last visit to the vet. Maybe he's too short and inquisitive. When he's out exploring in the yard, the lizards or toads eject toxins that get into his eyes...that's probably why.

Hmm, maybe I'm not a traditional sandwich afterall. There must be a name for people like us, involved in caring for kids, parents and pets....

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Sunday nite BBQ

We were at my best friend's house this evening for BBQ dinner in her lovely garden.

Her pink amaryllis in full bloom. Isn't it lovely?
Another one is about to blossom.
Even her lotus plant is flowering! She really has green fingers! I'm almost green with envy.
Look! A gecko hiding behind the striking heliconia.
The bird nest fern is just huge!
Her mother-in-law is an expert in growing hydrangea!
A nice touch! Duckie and dragon pot.
Here I am playing with Benson the cute beagle.
Pu-er Chinese tea. It's good for slimming, she says.
As usual, the kids catch up with their gaming while the adults catch up on life.
Guess what I returned home to? This mess created by Cookie and Rusty! They destroyed my favourite plant! They're taking revenge because we didn't bring them to the party.

Saturday, 25 August 2007


I woke up at 4.15am this morning to get ready for the 12km (7.5 miles) Sheares Bridge Run. This is the 3rd consecutive year we're running in this event organised by the army. By 7am, we were joining thousands of runners at the start point along Esplanade Drive. As you can imagine, we were surrounded by army chaps who are young enough to be my son!

The first 3km saw us running past gleaming skyscrapers in the central business district. This area feels different on a Sunday morning, especially when the road comes alive with sweaty bodies instead of busy executives in smart business suits.

We turned off at Prince Edward Road and started the uphill climb on the Sheares Bridge. The organiser made the right decision to close up 3 lanes on this stretch of the highway to give the runners more room, eliminating the frustrating human jam at the bottleneck that we have encountered in the previous years. I cleared the 2km uphill climb quite effortlessly today, thanks to the cool weather. At 8am, the gentle morning sun was just peeping out from the clouds.

We have alot more water stations this time round so there's abundant supply of mineral water and 100 Plus throughout the running route. As we turned off Sheares Bridge into Fort Road, the runners doing the half marathon (21km) started appearing from East Coast Park to merge with us. At this point, they have already covered 15km whereas I've barely cleared the first 6km.

Somehow the next 3km was really strenuous. My legs were beginning to feel the strain from the pounding and it was getting hot. Besides, the heavy vehicles on the road were spewing too much smoke. Time for water break!

When the sign board showed that we've 3km more to go, I started running with renewed energy. What joy to see the finish point looming ahead! Only 500m to go. I kept going though my legs were begging me to stop. I picked up speed when I reached the final 250m stretch so that I can sprint my way across the finish line with dignity.

Finally, I finished the race! As I write, I'm still thinking why I put myself through this. Too late! I have already registered for a 10km run in October and a 21km run in December.

When the pain is gone, I'll be up and running again! It's an addiction.

Simple home-made meal

Now that I have a new camera, I have to put it to the test in the kitchen too. Here are some simple healthy dishes I cooked for dinner tonight. Of course, the savoury dishes will be eaten together with rice, organic brown rice to be exact!Wild sea bass (barramundi) dressed in tomato, ginger, spring onions, light soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil, about to go into the steamer.
Yong Tou Foo dish featuring tofu and vegetables stuffed with fish paste, stir fried with lots of garlic and dark soy sauce.
Leafy vegetables is a standard fare here. Mum likes her greens chopped up like the lightly stir-fried spinach dish here. I added in some dried anchovies to enhance the flavour.
My brother made this nutritious bittergourd-stuffed-with-minced-pork soup. I made the soup base by boiling dried anchovies and dried soy beans.
Shredded sweet turnip stir-fried with dried shrimps and garlic, and seasoned with light soy sauce. The sweet and salty combi makes this a favourite dish at home.
The final dish is steamed fresh prawns. Unfortunately I ran out of battery. Well, it's not difficult to imagine what cooked prawns look like, isn't it?

Friday, 24 August 2007


I put some raw peanuts in the ground a few months ago and look at what I've harvested today!
Haha! That's so little, it's not even enough to go with my glass of beer!

Saturday morning

I am staying in today to pack for my trip to France. Tomorrow's going to be a busy day that'll leave me with no time to do any packing.

It's also time to try out my new camera! I traded in my Olympus Stylus 410 for the Stylus 760 and honestly, the picture quality leaves much to be desired. The photos below are unadulterated. They're ok I guess but the old one would have done a better job for sure!
The best place to try it out is in the garden. I'm always anxious to know how the close up shots will turn out. This camera does a pretty decent job on the black-hearted flowers that are in full bloom today.
The details on the rose don't show up very well here. In cases like this, I'll have to run it through the software to sharpen the image.
The golden dewdrop's rich colour and shiny hue is not quite visible in this photo either.
The bauhenia flower looks pretty natural, quite close to the real thing.
The milkweed is a favourite butterfly food plant as the leaves are always nibbled away by caterpillars. The picture appears dull but then again, the real thing is somewhat dull too.
A close up shot of the tiny passion flower. This is the species that produces little round seed pods containing sweet succulent seeds that are a favourite with birds.
The delicate pink lantana flowers in soft, pastel hues. These are hardy plants that thrive in poor soil conditions.
This picture here doesn't do enough justice to the bright red flowers of the Ixora plant.
Another lantana flower being eaten away by the bug. Can you see it?
This is exactly how the blue-pea flower looks in my rock garden. Because of it's bright iridescent colour, it is commonly used as a food colouring in our local cakes.
Part of my rock garden. Oops, looks like it's time to do some weeding again!
I found the beautiful pagoda flower hidden under the shady mango tree. Because it doesn't get enough sunlight, it is growing at an angle towards the light.
I'm surprised to see my neglected water lily producing flowers despite the lack of fertiliser and attention.
I've cut down the cassia tree many times, yet it continues to grow profusely, towering over the other plants in the garden. You can find big bumble bees hovering over the attractive yellow flowers all the time.
Faithful Cookie followed me around the garden. You can see from his shadow that it's a hot and sunny morning!
That's my niece's slippers. Yup, she's still around! She's going home today.
Our jackfruit tree is laden with so many fruits, we don't quite know what to do with them. They simply fall onto the ground and rot!

I step into the house to find a sobbing Ting being comforted by her nanny. Poor nanny has her hands full!

Verdict - The pictures appear natural but are surprisingly lacking in lustre despite the bright sunny weather. I've always trusted Olympus lens and have been very pleased with the older one. I hope this new camera grows on me though.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Body types

I did some research on body types. I'll try to explain my findings below.

Here are my two favourite animals. Cookie the mongrel is what we call the ectomorph. Characterized by smalls bones and very little muscle mass, ectomorphs are generally lean and mean but have a hard time packing on the muscle. Cookie is a picky eater who eats slowly with finesse, hence he's too skinny. He'll make a good fashion model in our world of homosapiens.

Rusty, on the other hand, is the mesomorph who has the tendency to be muscular and ripped. A mesomorph can generally build muscle and shed away fat with considerable ease. Rusty is the greedy one who gobbles up everything edible in sight, except dried dog food. If he were a man, he would have a body that'll make girls swoon.

I am probably the endomorph ... generally what most people consider “stocky” creatures, many of them having short but thick limbs and heavy bones. (ok, ok, I am not stocky, only I have heavy bones) Many endomorphs desire a leaner, more defined look, (absolutely!) and should try cutting the fats down to a minimum. Cardiovascular regimens – anything from swimming to biking – is essential for endomorphs looking to trim down. (yikes!) Thirty minutes per day, four days a week, will keep the jelly out of the belly. (you bet!) Meanwhile, weight training should contain sets of several repetitions at a moderate weight, with limited time spent between sets. (must I really do all that?)